Eric Freeze: Dominant Traits
(review & interview)

4.18.12 | | 17 comments

domtraits.

I hadn’t heard of Eric Freeze until last year.  I suppose this isn’t surprising, what with him being Canadian, ha ha, but for a Mormon with as long a fiction CV as he has, I’m sorry I hadn’t. Plus, he’s an academic who writes about comics and I really needed one more of those back in 2010 when I was finishing up the Sunstone comics issue. Ah well. I’ll know where to turn next time.

Dominant Traits is a US reprint by Dufour Editions of Dominant Traits from Oberon Press, the orginal Canadian collection of Freeze’s stories, all but one of which have been previously published in a variety of reputable literary rags. The exception is “Goths”; we’ll talk about it later.

The collection is a complex mix, and so I’m going to break this review into pieces. Also, we’re going to try mixing the review with an interview. I’ll end each  bit of review in the form of a question. Then get Brother Freeze to reply.

Shall we get started?

1. The title

Mormonism is mere windowdressing for most of the stories in Dominant Traits—the Mormons pay rent for a drunk Indian if he says he’s trying to quit smoking in “Wrong Time for Caution”—the p-o-v character in “Shoot the Moon” is an actual Mormon which provides a few nice touches but is ultimately not that significant. One exception is the story “Poachers” which stars a Mormon couple and their son. The son has blue eyes, but his parents have brown eyes. You see, his mother once had an affair with a blue-eyed man, and the boy is the result. This is how he dodged the dominant trait of his parent’s brown eyes.

It’s much too tempting a target, speculating why Freeze named his collection Dominant Traits. (I also think it’s interesting that the boy on the cover has brown eyes rather than blue, but likely that was not his doing.) That the title comes from “Poachers” must be telling, right? That the main character is a woman who has difficulty pulling off the Mormon thing also seems telling. That she is married to a man who is about as Mormon as they come by popular criteria strikes me as pretty telling as well. That their spawn is leaning toward disaster while simultaneously being “Beaver Cleaver”? Telling.

My favorite theory (though I may be biased by the forum for which I am writing this review), is that Dominant Traits the title signifies that notwithstanding the dominant traits of Literary Fiction or Canadian Fiction or Western Fiction, the recessive blue that is Mormon fiction is still popping up. Of course, that makes Mormon fiction the bastard sexandrunner, but as Elder Packer says, every metaphor breaks down if you push it too hard.

It may be a stretch, but because this is an intereview, I can say wild things like this then just ask the author.

Question for Eric Freeze:

Why the title Dominant Traits? You could have, I assume, changed the title when you went with a new press and a more attractive cover. But you stuck with it. Clearly, you think it’s the right title. What makes it the right title?

Answer from Eric Freeze:

Choosing a title is always difficult.I sometimes have stories that sit for ages before I find the right title.For this collection, I wanted something that spoke to its aesthetic heart, and Dominant Traits fit the bill.It not only describes the problem of genetics in “Poachers” but it also speaks to the ways that characters sometimes dominate or marginalize others.It speaks to issues of patriarchy and conformity which were prevalent in my experience growing up in a predominantly LDS community.I don’t think I’m necessarily commenting on those issues other than to identify them, sort of point and say, look how people sometimes treat each other.A good example is the short short “The Beet Farmer” which describes a group of blue collar workers at a sugar factory egging a kid on.The men are models for the boy and so he follows what they have him do, even when the end result creates confusion and tension in his family.But like you said, you can take a metaphor too far.I think Dominant Traits would be a failure as a title if we started reading the stories as simply examples of submission and domination.

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2. Let’s talk about sex before someone else does, shall we?

The final story of the collection is “Seven Little Stories About Sex.” Read it here. I read it online before Dufour sent me the collection (I mean, I had to, right?) and I appreciated what Freeze was trying to do but thought he didn’t really pull anything off other than a prurient literariness that was more the execution of an MFA concept than anything particularly grounded in human emotion. So I was tempted to not bother rereading it when I reached the end of Dominant Traits. And perhaps if the timing had been different I wouldn’t have. But my commute worked out and I reread the story and this time I was impressed. I still think the piles of babies at the end is harvesting too much from the low-hanging-symbolism orchard, but pretty much every event in the story rings true for me. Not to say it perfectly reflects my own experience, but that when I take what I know about this character and what I know about sex and punch them into the algorithm of this fiction, I get an answer I can believe in. It’s a good story. Worth your time.

All the same, I do nervously wonder if the existence of this story will prevent him from ever working for BYU again. (But I’m an optimist. And they did have him over for a reading recently. Go, Cougs! You know I love you!)

Question for Eric Freeze:

All that said, I have to wonder why your original pitch to A Motley Vision included a link to this story. Were you trying to warn us that we might be making a terrible error if we chose to look at your book? Trying to suss out before we accepted a copy whether we are the sort to be easily offended? Did you not know “Dummy” is online? Were you just going on the notion that it was your latest work? or that it had won an award? or that Junot Diaz liked it? What is it about “Seven Stories About Sex” that makes you feel it’s your calling card?

Also, if it’s not prying too much, what does your ward think of these boiling vats of semen? Or does your ward (like most wards) not read their writer’s writing? (Ah, the lonely path of the neglected Mormon fictionist.)

Answer from Eric Freeze:

Wow, a lot of questions there.  I’ll do my best to respond to them.

Before pitching my book to AMV, I looked around on your website and found healthy balanced discussion about Mormon literature.  I was looking for places that wouldn’t balk at reading my work, but help bring it to a Mormon audience. “Dummy” was published by an online journal, so yes, I did know it was available online, but I felt that “Seven Little Stories” was my best work to date and the most indicative of where I see my work going in the future.  It did get a lot of attention when it first came out and I hope it wasn’t merely because of the subject matter.  The story, for me, solidifies my core beliefs about intimacy.  In many ways it’s a very conservative story, certainly more conservative than my own social and political views.  What I wanted to do with the story, and what I think (hope?) I achieved is to write a story about boring old married sex that was life-affirming and beautiful.  I’m not sure I can ever fully articulate how much this story means to me.  It took me several years to write, multiple drafts, and it risks sentimentality more than almost anything I’ve written.  Some people get turned off by it.  I’ve had people walk out of readings and family members who’ve thrown my book across the room.   But I’ve also had many emails and comments from people who have said that the story moved them deeply.  I have a very conservative brother who doesn’t care for most of my work but he loves that story.  I think we need more open discussion about sexuality in Mormon lit, about masturbation, homosexuality, immodesty, you name it.  If my story can at least get a conversation going, I think it’s a success.  And that’s why I pitched it to you.

As for teaching at BYU, I’ve had interesting responses.  When I knew the book was coming out, I contacted all the BYUs about coming and doing a reading.  The only campus to turn me down was BYU Hawaii, and it was explicitly because of that story.  But both BYU Idaho and BYU Provo were happy to have me.  BYU has actually invited me to apply to teach there, so I don’t think the story is an issue.  But I haven’t applied and probably won’t.  I think Mormons need more examples of active LDS writers teaching at institutions other than BYU.  I guess you could say I’m a Mormon diasporist. Leave Zion!  It will do you good!

I don’t think anyone in my ward has read my book yet, although I’ve had quite a few people in the stake read it.  If they are bothered by it, they know me well enough that they can approach me about it.  I have had some Mormons read the book and get very offended so I imagine it would probably offend some folks in my ward.  Such is life.  The book is out there and I can’t be an apologist.  It’s not for everyone.  But if you’re a forward-thinking Mormon and like great literature, I think you’ll enjoy it.  Reactions crack me up sometimes.  One of my friend’s parents bought the book—really wonderful people—and after reading a couple stories, she said, “I want my money back!”  It’s perverse but those kinds of things keep me writing.

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3. We’re all family here

Freeze picked up his PhD at Ohio University where he studied under Darrell Spencer. (Suddenly I wonder if I am the right person to review this book; better not click that link, folks.)

Off the top of my head, I can’t name one other Mormon writer who studied in a reputable writing program (excluding Mormon schools) under a Mormon writer. So Freeze’s existence is exhilarating. And while I did not find any inarguable evidence that he has “grappled with and absorbed some of the lessons of his precursors — Doug Thayer, Orson Scott Card, Levi Peterson, Margaret Young, Bela Petsco, Neal Chandler and, yes, Brian Evenson and Neil LaBute,” I imagine he has.

Question for Eric Freeze:

Your pedigree—your writerly line of authority, if you will—suggests that you are well aware of other Mormon writers. What influence do you think you’ve inherited therefrom? Also: what other (not Mormon) writers have been particularly influential? Also: why no publication credits in Mormon periodicals (other than ten-year-old reviews of Darrell Spencer and John Bennion)? I don’t mean this in an accusative way, by the by; I’m just curious.

Answer from Eric Freeze:

For a long time I didn’t want to publish anything in Mormon periodicals or write anything explicitly Mormon.  I was too dissatisfied with how quickly writers were slotted into pro- or anti-Mormon camps or how polarized much of Mormon literature seemed to me.  In short, I wanted to write literature that sometimes had Mormon characters but that wasn’t explicitly about Mormonism.  Writing about Mormonism still doesn’t really interest me and I’m always a little disappointed when someone reads my work and makes assumptions about who I am or about my activity in the church. I am an active, temple-recommend-holding Mormon and I write to understand human beings, many of whom are not Mormon.  I see writing as the ultimate act of empathy; it’s a difficult thing to do, appropriate an other’s POV and try to see things through her eyes.  There are Mormons and non-Mormons who do things I don’t do and writing about them helps me get just a little closer to being able to understand their struggles and how they experience the world.

OK.  Influential Mormon writers.  Darrell Spencer certainly was (and is), but he doesn’t really identify himself as Mormon writer.  I think he’d probably say that’s more something that people say about his work, as an easy way of categorizing it.  Darrell was hugely influential, mostly because of his approach to language and invention and his dedication to the craft.  But he also encouraged me to seek other voices and try other approaches.  I spent most of my time in his classes writing experiments that never ended up seeing publication.  But they taught me about voice, about POV, about language.  There are other writers/teachers who have also been influential: John Bennion and Lance Larsen are still good friends who taught me an enormous amount.  I like Mary Clyde, who won the Flannery O’Connor award in the late 90s.  And Phyllis Barber.  Writers who I try to model however, are mostly women or minority writers.  Alice Munro, Carol Shields, and Margaret Atwood have taught me about the inner psychology of characters, about language, and sentences, how to write about absence.  Toni Morrison and Gloria Naylor have taught me about form, about transformative narratives, about voice.  I’m constantly trying out things I see other authors doing. In Dominant Traits, there are sections that I modeled after work by Alice Munro, Pam Houston, Leslie Norris, Tony Earley, and Toni Morrison.  I can’t claim that I was able to even come close to reproducing the quality of work of these writers, but they have taught me how to write.

Speaking of pedigree—here’s something to chew on: what I’m experiencing now as a teacher of writing is the influence of LDS professors to non-Mormons.  Darrell, for example, taught Brian Evenson and Brady Udall, who are both professors at prominent creative writing programs.  Brady Udall taught Ben Percy, a very prolific young author who is a good friend of mine.  Ben said that he learned everything he knows about writing from Brady.  And guess where Brady learned it? Yep, from Darrell.  All the time I’m running into students who have been influenced by Mormon teachers/authors.  Mormons are EVERYWHERE.

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4. Normalization

Freeze is on record explaining that his work is about normalizing Latter-day Saints for a secular audience. Using that goal as a starting point, let’s look at two stories in the collection which feature Mormon p-o-vs, “Poachers” and “Goths.” They appear back-to-back and straddle the center of the book. The first is about a fallen woman (if you will), her Peter Priesthood husband (if you will), and their son. Who has some issues (some of which are typical markers for sociopathy in most modern fiction), but who, by the end, is clearly not a baddun. “Goths” is about a fellow chaperoning the stake youth dance who, at least on the surface, is a churchy Ned Flanders type, quick to judge on the surface. The first story, even with its adultery, did not offend my sense of What Mormons Are Like and did, I suspect, successfully normalize the mother and son for a general audience—and even the father, with his forgiveness and goody-goody prickiness and What-Mormons-Are-Supposed-to-Be-Like-ness, was fully rounded enough to, I imagine, at least provide a sense of breadth, if not normalization per se.

“Goths” however I did not care for. I like many of its pieces a great deal, but the story as a whole ultimately lacks a clear direction. (Maybe this is the Darrell Spencer influence shining through?) Its lack of purpose  becomes overwhelming as the story ends with a moment that could have been the beginning of an even better story. Just as the protagonist is going to be forced to confront—not in his head, but IRL—the conflicts in his thinking, the story ends. I’m having a hard time imagining a more clear deflection, a more clear authorial unwillingness to take a thematic stand. The protagonists has his arm raised, just about to knock on a door . . . and the story ends.

Seriously?

Anyway, “Goths” may be a blown opportunity for more thorough normalization, but “Poachers” did show human Mormons. Or it made Mormons human, if you prefer.

Question for Eric Freeze:

Based on feedback you’re receiving and your own self-analysis, how’s this normalization-of-the-Latter-day-Saints project going, do you think?

Answer from Eric Freeze:

Let me first respond to “Goths” a little.  It’s a new story that describes an odd moment where one character’s desire for closure is thwarted.  He wants a meaningful ending, something that can justify his long jog chasing down a couple teenagers to a trailer park.  But it’s important that he doesn’t get it.  It’s kind of like the end of that end of that 2008 movie, W, when the George Bush character waits alone in an outfield for the fly ball or home run that never comes. Pauley’s character sees things in very black-and-white terms.  He has difficulty dealing with ambiguity or narratives that aren’t pre-packaged or faith promoting.  I don’t know if this story “normalizes” Mormons or not, but it does, for me, describe many Mormons.

As for normalizing Mormons to a larger audience, I feel like it’s an ongoing challenge that I share with many others.  I’ve been heartened to see the church’s “I Am a Mormon” campaign, for example.  It shows a larger variety of Mormons than we generally get from the mainstream.  There are myriad Mormon voices that are expanding peoples’ knowledge.  And people need a variety.  They need people like Romney or Huntsman but also voices like Elna Baker and Joanna Brooks. I love the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog for how it engages dialogue about contemporary issues.  But for my own influence, I don’t know.  I’m really such a small voice in comparison that I don’t feel like I’m doing much.  People often express surprise when they find out I’m Mormon.  I don’t know whether to be offended or pleased.  At least it shows I’m helping to debunk stereotypes.

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5. Author as character

Immediately before the two stories mentioned in the last section are “Writing on Stone” and “Dummy,” which might star the same protagonist. At least, both are named Eric and both are into theater. In the second story, the protag is given a last name as well: Freeze.

Authors do not accidentally name characters after themselves.

So what is Freeze up to here?

The first and simplest possible explanation is that this character[s] is essentially autobiographical and while packaged as “fiction,” in fact, isn’t so much.

Of course, other possibilities exist. No one believes Paul Auster was tracked down by Daniel Quinn or that Kurt Vonnegut has spent time on the beach chatting up Kilgore Trout (though to suspect that that last book in particular is without any autobiographical content would be dangerous).

So what is Freeze up to here? Are these true stories artfully recreated? Is it a form of deflected confession? Are they the beginning to an alternate life he could have lived had he followed Melpomene instead of Calliope? Is he just messing with us? I don’t know. But I would like to.

Question for Eric Freeze:

So. Spill.

Answer from Eric Freeze:

I’ve had people ask me about this before and really it’s because the POVs were hard to inhabit so I used my name to up the ante for me as a writer.It was a way for me to artificially take responsibility for what happens in the stories.You’re right, there are some autobiographical elements in the stories, but the stories are fabricated.

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6. Speaking of “Writing on Stone” and normalization . . . .

I haven’t mentioned it, but these stories primarily take place in southern Alberta with occasional jaunts to Toronto. And if you’ve ever been to, say, Lethbridge (or, as in my case, served a mission with half a dozen of Lethbridge’s finest young men), you know the place is rolling with Mormons. And, as it turns out, Hutterites as well. This I did not know. And the Eric of “Writing on Stone” has Hutterite relatives.

Freeze’s Hutterites serve a punctuatative purpose similar to his Mormons. Both are somewhat strange religious communities, except while Mormons are integrated, Hutterites are self-segregated. We see them most clearly in “Writing on Stone”; (the character) Eric’s parents left that community long ago, but they retain a mental hold over Eric. After the death of a beloved Hutterite cousin, Eric—now a Toronto journlist—returns home on a possible invitation from his Hutterite uncle. His interactions with the Hutterites make Eric look pathetic and the Hutterites stoic (though also, by the end, human [normalized?]).

Perhaps the contrast between the strange but normal Hutterites and the normal but strange Mormons is providing a thematic wholeness, though I’m loathe to connect those dots.

As one reviewer writes, Freeze’s stories “paint a magical world: of beet farming and Mormons and hoodoos and Hutterites.” (Incidentally, I’m not sure that beet farming is terribly magical, so if this is the list, I’m just not sure how that normalization project is going.) They’re getting equal billing, and I think it probably is true that the Hutterites are a more striking presence in the collection.

Question for Eric Freeze:

What sort of hold over your imagination did the Hutterites have while you were growing up?

Answer from Eric Freeze:

In a QA session at a reading on campus last week, a student asked me how such an area with all these different ethnic or religious groups, could still be so separate and intolerant.  It does certainly challenge the stereotype of Canada being this happy cultural mosaic where everyone blissfully coexists.  The truth was, Hutterites were a group of people who I saw regularly but never had any true interaction with.  They came into town in trucks to buy groceries and after that served as a colorful backdrop for our community.  I didn’t know the first thing about them.  I had to do a ton of research for this story, about their beliefs and communities, and as I did so, I gained an enormous respect for them.  This story ended up becoming my way to reach out to a community that I have long misunderstood.

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7. Owning the past

Perhaps I should now admit I knew some of Freeze’s likely answers to these questions before I posed them. You see, I’ve read the introduction to his dissertation, Ridgeview: A Collection of Stories. Here’s the pdf, if you’re interested. It’s mostly the same stories as Dominant Traits. With an introduction to convince his committee that he is brilliant and deserves a doctorate.

From the abstract:

Ridgeview is a collection of original short stories by Eric Freeze set in the fictional town of Ridgeview in southern Alberta, Canada. The critical introduction to these stories addresses issues of biographical and fictional writing. The introduction compares Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein to Ridgeview and argues that when authors fictionalize biographical elements, critics can no longer treat characters as though they existed in the authors’ biographical world. (3)

(Though I might point out this point is arguable in Ravelstein‘s case.)

In other words, Freeze is starting with the raw material of the real world, then changing it up. Naturally, not all the real humans thus fictionalized are excited by the result:

As I explained it to my family, the stories were fictional; I was merely cobbling together bits and pieces of what I knew about southern Alberta into stories through the medium of language. My collected stories were not biographical, were not even “based on a true story,” so to speak. The relationships between the characters, the town, and the descriptions were metaphoric. The words I used did not represent the “real” southern Alberta, but were metaphorical substitutions, relying wholly on the language that brings each character or relationship into being. The stories caused my family discomfort because they read through these metaphorical substitutions, and assumed that the fiction reflected their own lives, giving the stories a biographical reading. But a close look at my stories shows how Ridgeview‘s form is fictional. (29-30)

Perhaps. But it does sound like he’s dismissing their concerns as insufficiently broadminded or educated or whatever. He sounds, in other words, a bit like a lady protesting too much. Later in his introduction, while discussing “Writing on Stone,” he writes that putting “Eric” in Toronto and turning his yes-actually-dead-cousin “Mary” into a Hutterite, means they are no longer the same people they were. Which is fine and fair. But the names “Eric” and “Mary” mean nothing to me; “Bob” and “Sally” would have worked just as well (perhaps better, without the unsettling disconnect of wondering if “Eric” is Eric). When Freeze’s family reads a story with an Eric and a dead Mary, I can’t really blame them if they have a hard time moving completely into this new realm of seeing these characters as merely “Eric” and “Mary.”Even if that makes me too a philistine.

No matter how much Freeze talks about layers and metaphors, I can’t accept that anything is gained by keeping the names. Every other argument I can accept, but keeping the names provides nothing of use to any batch of readers and, in fact, knocks some out of the story. So unless here’s merely intending to pose postmodern questions re art???, what’s the point?

Question for Eric Freeze:

All the stories in Ridgeview which were later published elsewhere, first appeared as part of your dissertation. I’m not surprised they remained intact from R to rag to DT. No question there. What I do wonder is how, in the last eight years, your attitudes on the points you argued in your dissertation have evolved. Don’t feel like you have to stop me from being annoyed over the name issue. In fact, feel free to ignore what I just wrote entirely. The real question is this: How have your personal philosophies of writing fiction further developed since June 2004?

Answer from Eric Freeze:

They haven’t changed much.  Although I should say that at the time, I was very influenced by J. Hillis Miller’s theoretical book Ariadne’s Thread.  I’m probably less concerned now about the names and issues you describe than I was then. Change the names?  Why not?  Maybe one example makes me question, though.  The name “Mary” ends up creating its own character that becomes hard to dissociate from the text.  At one point, the narrator Eric makes a joke: “Our virgin Mary” and his mother says, “Don’t kid yourself.”  It’s a bit of dialogue that reveals how the characters perceive Mary.  His mother sees someone who is more world-savvy than Eric is giving her credit.  If I change the name, the way the words interact to mean, to lead us to understand the fictional character, also change.

One note about the stories in my dissertation.  Dominant Traits is quite different in some ways.  I took one story out and added four others.  All the remaining stories went through revision both when they were published individually (the first was published in 2004, after I defended my dissertation, the last in 2011) and again when they were published as a collection.  And the stories in Dominant Traits aren’t as closely linked as my dissertation.

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8. The present

In addition to the review I’ve already cited, I’ve found the following takes on Dominant Traits:

  • From Booklist: “Freeze’s focus isn’t on his characters’ jobs or belief systems, though, but on the way that their fears shape them . . . . With clean description and great attention to detail, Freeze produces realistic, believable people and delves deeply into their psyches to create truly enjoyable character studies that really make the reader think.”
  • From “cheezy” in his very first Amazon review ever: “very bluntly real life. There was nothing in it that beat around the bush. I admired that he had the courage and the ability to explain life in its sometimes harsh reality, but frankly, I had a hard time getting through all the swearing. That was probably the most offensive part to me, other than several parts in the book that had some offensive content. Freeze does a good job of personalizing his characters, and getting the reader in their heads and in their lives.”
  • From our beloved Lisa Torcasso Downing: “Very good.”

That’s pretty much it so far. Two wordless reviews on Goodreads, a five-star and a three-star. Not a lot of critical mass yet, in other words. Still room for you, dear reader, to be an influential voice.

Question for Eric Freeze:

You’ve been flitting about doing readings and signings (or so your wife says). Obviously, the main point of a speaking tour is, as Charles Dickens was wont to say, to rack up hella cash. How are you positioning your work before audiences to get them to buy Dominant Traits?

Answer from Eric Freeze:

Ahh, if only the “hella cash” part were true.  What I feel more strongly about is getting a message to other aspiring Mormon writers.  Since choosing the arts for my profession, I’ve been increasingly dismayed at the Mormon casualties along the way: talented men and women who sacrifice their artistic aspirations for careers or choices that they feel Mormons validate more.  I don’t berate these people for their choices individually, but taken as a whole this trend has really bothered me.  I have had friends stop pursuing the arts, preferring careers where they can “make money” or, in more culturally Mormon terms, be more “self reliant.”  I want people to know that you can write what you want to write and be Mormon and have a successful artistic career.  These things shouldn’t be at odds with each other.

As for positioning my work, I’m not sure.  I did readings in Edmonton, Calgary, and Lethbridge and there I pitched it as a book with regional significance.  In my visit to BYUI, BYU, USU, and for the CityArt reading series, I pitched it as a book about Mormon characters.  At Wabash College, Eureka College, and at AWP, I just pitched it as a good book.  When I visit Hamdpen-Sydney in the fall I’ll probably pitch it as a book about masculinity.

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9. The future

The Internet says that Eric Freeze has been given a grant from the Canada Council to write a novel. He’s currently teaching at Wabash College in Indiana, where—and here the internet and his CV agree—he’s a pretty great instructor. But I don’t need another degree at the moment. His novel’s the future I’m interested in.

Question for Eric Freeze:

A two-parter this time.

1. Will this novel be involving any of the characters we already know? A Patrick or an Eric or a Brandon? If not, then what’s it about?

2. What else do you have planned?

Answer from Eric Freeze:

The novel is a multi-generational novel set in New Brunswick, Canada and Alberta, Canada.  It won’t have any characters from the collection that I’m aware of yet but there will be some LDS content.  When I went to New Brunswick for my research last summer, I was astonished to find many LDS moving to the area because the oil boom had made Alberta too expensive. Before then I was mostly working on a historical novel about the early Yorkshire settlers in New Brunswick.  Now it’s something much more amorphous (hopefully the form will come together!) with a kind of reverse-migration narrative to it.  There’s  some other stuff, Wild Canadian West history, and genetic astral projection, that should make it interesting.  But who knows?  It could totally suck.

Other things I have planned are another collection of short fiction and a collection of creative nonfiction about France.  Both will have some LDS content.  The essay collection has many anecdotes and experiences from my LDS mission in Marseille and from about 9 years of directing summer abroad programs in Paris, Royan, and Nice.  Some of the Mormon-content stories/essays are already out including “The Virgins” in Western Humanities Review, “Bolt” in The Normal School, and “Hemingway on a Bike” in Harvard Review.  I plan on finishing these two collections this summer and then start shopping them around.

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Final thoughts

Dominant Traits is a well written collection of literary short fiction. I don’t think it transcends that genre, so if you hate literary fiction this may not be for you.

That said, it’s well written stuff. Not for the lighthearted casual reader, but for those looking for meaty literary work from a Mormon author, Freeze has the goods. I say pick it up, then come back and tell us what you think.

I doubt we’ll see a better short-story collection this year, so act now.

Addendum: After adding in the authorial replies to my questions, I’m anxious to address what he’s said. Butyou should have the first round. Go.

17 comments: “Eric Freeze: Dominant Traits
(review & interview)

  1. Wm

    Thanks, Eric and Theric.

    I really like the approach here and am pleased that Eric was up for tackling it in this way.

  2. Katya

    At the risk of becoming that commenter, I have to point out that it’s entirely possible for two brown-eyed people to have a blue-eyed child, so long as both parents have heterozygous genomes (i.e., have one dominant brown-eyed gene and one recessive blue-eyed gene). I think it’s actually possible under other circumstances, as well, but I never got much beyond Punnett square-level biology.

  3. Katya

    Now that I’ve been insufferable, I will go on to say that I love the phrase “writerly line of authority,” and I appreciate the work that Freeze is trying to do in avoiding MoLit polarization. I will have to check out his work.

  4. Th.

    .

    You’re right of course that browneyes can have blueeyes. I don’t have my book here with me so I don’t remember if it says anything about browneyes from generations, but I know it does talk about the possibility and that the kid has other traits of the other man.

    I like the way Eric phrased his avoidance of polarization as well. So many people think these are the options:

    1. Make great art and leave / be forced to leave the faith

    2. Give up art to make real money

    3. Make crappy art that the bubbleheaded Saints will enjoy.

    FTR, I hate and reject those options.

  5. BarefootMike

    Thanks AMV for introducing me to yet another author to add to my backlog of reading list. It’s always great to have some background on the writer before embarking on one of his works.

  6. Ben S

    As a long-time family friend who knows S. Alberta, it’s nice to see Eric get some long-deserved attention. Thanks for the interview.

  7. Jonathon Penny

    Eric Freeze representing. Eric, your book is on my desk. I’ll get to it. Theric, thanks for a level and challenging interview.

  8. Sarah Dunster

    I went and read Seven Stories (wish I could italicize but I am typing this on android) and I have to say, I did not find them prurient. Explicit, honest, literary, yes. And true, unutterably true…maybe if more people wrote such honest explorations of sexuality, we mormons would have fewer hang ups, and this would not have happened…to me. There, I have outed myself. Anyway, I found your writing refreshing, Eric, and very likely, quite important as well.

  9. Th.

    .

    Holy crap, Sarah. That sounds a bit more serious than a lack of sexual openness in our writing.

    But for the record, I agree that we need more sex in our writing.

  10. motleyvision

    I just whitelisted the word “sex” so hopefully we all should be able to carry on this conversation without comments routing through the moderating queue first.

  11. Sarah Dunster

    I know you agree, I just wish LDS people didn’t see such things as prurient. And yes, nit just writing…talking, acknowledging. Living. The problem in the linked to situation had everything to do.with shame and a downward spiral. Secrecy feeds addiction and dysfuction. The (current) hubs and I are ekeing our way through And They Were Not Ashamed, by Laura Brotherson, a text that argues for open discussion of sexuality. I would argue that, as it is a very important point of our doctrine ( that

  12. Th.

    .

    Did Android end your comment earlier?

    I had forgotten about Brotherson’s book (I almost bought it when it came out . . . then forgot all about it); does she have proposals for what greater openness would look like?

  13. Sarah Dunster

    bodies are temples, and that the drives of said bodies are ordained of god, in fact muvh of temple ceremonies and symbolism point to and are reflected by the pnysical union of marriage) that we should be writing (and painting, and singing?and whatever else) about it much more often. I particularly found Eric’d address of the topic of masturbation profound, brave, and important. If more addressed that with such honesty, maybe

  14. Sarah Dunster

    Sorry, Theric, for passing you up mid comment. She seems to argue that sex should be a topic on the table for open (respectful) discussion, even perhaps between sets of married couples…certainly over the pulpit.

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